By Stephen Ubanna
Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, appears to have given a matching order to the Interventionist units across the country to tighten up security at their various checks in their areas of Jurisdiction.
Ali, the Customs boss is not happy that the dire hard smugglers operating between the south east and the south-south states had taken advantage of the Joint security Team, comprising of the Nigeria Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, Department of State Security, DSS and the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, personnel, to attack the Awomama Headquarters of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOD and Eastern Security Network, ESN, on Saturday, April24,2021, to launch a similar attack on a Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Patrol base in Isiokpo, Headquarters of Ikwerre local government Area.
He is working closely with Usman Alkali Baba, acting Inspecting Geneneral of Police ,IGP, who was said to have mandated Friday Eboka, the Rivers state Commissioner of Police and his men to intensify their Intelligence gathering to get a clue on the hideout of the smugglers and arrest them in order to face the full weight of the Law.
A retired senior Customs officer who spoke to Value News on condition of anonymity had described the Omagwa- Isiokpo – Elele Communities along the PortHarcourt –Owerri road as a notorious route for smugglers and gunmen to carry out attacks on security operatives in the state.
Last June Kyode Olusemiere , a one -time Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, and now Comptroller Enforcement, at the Customs Headquarters had made a seizure of 3,122 live ammunition Cartridges for pump action rifles , with a Duty Paid Value of over N1.873 billion, around the Isiokpo Patrol base Checkpoint Concealed in a vehicle .
This may have informed the news making the rounds that the attackers of the Customs Patrol base may not unconnected to arms smugglers, using the Omagwa-Isiokpo-Elele Communities in the oil –rich Rivers state to carry out their nefarious activities. Jerry Atta a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the FOU, Zone C, spokesperson may have alluded to this when he blamed ‘’the killing of the Customs operatives on the armed smugglers whose businesses have been frustrated by the Customs in the recent time’’.
Appearing on Channels Television on Sunday, April 25, 2021, Atta, not the National Customs Public Relations Officer, confirmed that three of its officers were killed by the gunmen during the attack. He disclosed that’’ the killers went away with an AK47 and two Toyota Hilux Patrol vans belonging to the service’’.
They may have used the Customs vehicles as a Camouflage to carry out their nefarious activities to avoid being stopped by another Customs Patrol team on the road for the regular routine check- up. They may have had at the back of their mind that they have escaped but they have to watch it as the full arm of the Law will still catch up with them.
The FOU, Zone C, Command officials were said to have reached out to other Checkpoint Team leaders between Rivers and Cross-river state to look out for the smugglers and gunmen who have hijacked the two Customs Hilux vans at the Isiokpo Patrol base. This may have intensified the manhunt for the thieves in the south east and south-south Geo-political regions. The argument in both official circles was that the smugglers cum gun gunmen have not yet left the two regions to enter the northern part of the county.
Atta may have spoken the mind of the Customs Comptroller General when he said that an ‘’investigation Team would be Constituted ‘’to unravel the circumstances that led to the attack and also unravel the motive of the of the assailants’’. Given the good working relationship between the Customs and the Force, Nnadi Omoni, a Suprintendent of Police and the Rivers State police Command spokesperson had said that’’ it has launched a full scale investigation into the gunmen attack at the Customs Isiokpo Patrol base Checkpoint with a view to arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to Justice’’.
Meawhile, Yusuf Lawal, the Command Area Comptroller, whose anti-smuggling Patrol Team, had intercepted 5,200 Live ammunition Cartridges of 30GR 70mm caliber last January , was said to have reinforced the Isiokpo Patrol base Team to further strengthen it to ward off any attack from intruders. He was said to have also increased the number of Joint Patrol Teams along the Omagwa-Elele-Isiokpo axis in order to contain the activities of the smugglers and other gunmen within the Ikwerre and Owerri, Imo state axis, described as the home of the IPOD and ESN, Group.
A security source told The Magazine that the attack at a Customs Checkpoint in Rivers state have toughened other security Operatives, particular, the Police at their various Checkpoints across the country as they may not want to be taking unaware or allow the gunmen attack Customs Operatives carrying out their Legitimate duties and get away.
From the south west states of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, south east Abia, Anambra, Eboyi, Imo. And the south –south states Akwa Ibom, Cross river , Rivers to the north central states of Kwara Benue, Niger, home state of for military President Ibrahim Babangida, a retired army General and the north western states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna and Katsina, home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, the story is the same: Tightened security at Police Chekpoint manned by fierce-looking officers, armed to the teeth. This is a message to the killer smugglers and gunmen that it is no longer going to be business as usual: Kill and Go.